Bourke Business Directory
A Guide to Bourke
The historic river port town of Bourke, in New South Wales, enjoys a special place in Australian affections. Considered the gateway from the eastern seaboard to the vast emptiness of the Outback, the town has been immortalised in the popular expression "Back o' Bourke", which means the great unknown.
Bourke sits on the Darling River and was once the world's largest inland port. It enjoyed importance as a major trading town and hub for access from Sydney - some 780km southwest of Bourke - to the less accessible towns of the Outback. Today it's a popular tourist destination, thanks to its rich history.
The first place to stop in Bourke is the magnificent Back O' Bourke Exhibition Centre, a state-of-the-art museum that tells the extraordinary history of the town and indeed the region. The museum itself is spread across three buildings and also uses outdoor exhibits to reveal some of the more intriguing aspects of the Bourke story, from the first European explorers to the local characters who helped it become a boomtown of the 19th century.
The centre's setting is an eye-catching one, on the banks of the Darling River surrounded by mighty red gums. Take a cruise on the river and recreate the days when steamers packed with wool would set sail from Bourke.
Bourke has some fabulous historic buildings, including the Catholic Church of St Ignatius, which is the town's oldest building, opened in 1874. Other important buildings include the Old London Bank, the Post Office and the Post Office Hotel. Step inside the old Courthouse, which dates back to 1900, and relive some of the less savoury events from Bourke's past.
The historic cemetery tells its own story of Bourke and those who built the town. And exploring one of the many heritage trails around the town and the local area is a must. The most popular follow the old coaching routes that once transported people to the great unknown of the Outback and are genuine living history.
The great unknown
Along the Darling River, near Bourke, can be found Trilby Station, an enormous sheep and goat station of around 320,000 acres. The station is now part of an adventure trail and visitors can see the sight of the first mechanical shearing in 1888 at the open-air museum while enjoying watching the native wildlife and birdlife all around. Trilby has terrific nature trails and more adventurous visitors can try their hand at fishing, yabbying or canoeing.
Around 50km south of Bourke is Gundabooka National Park, dominated by the 500m peak of Mount Gundabooka. The park itself has great cultural significance for the local Ngiyampaa people and the Aboriginal rock art found among the extraordinary collection of rust-coloured cliffs, gorges and hills is very important to their past. Vegetation includes red gums and white cypress pine, while there are more than 130 species of birds, 19 reptiles and amphibians, and 14 mammals to be found within the park.
The first European explorers who came to Bourke were in search of the mythical inland sea. They were to be disappointed, finding only rivers, but along the way they came across an extraordinary landscape. Head southeast of Bourke to Mount Oxley, ascended in 1829 by explorers Sturt and Hume in their futile search for the inland sea. Mt Oxley is an important emblem to the indigenous people and is part of the local Dreaming, and visitors can climb the mountain to see some magnificent views from the top.
Take a mud map tour on the Mitchell Highway to the north and the 32Ks to the east where native wildflowers unique to the area grow every spring.